Friday, March 22, 2019

US is Tense, Baffling Fun

Jordan Peele’s sophomore movie Us is well crafted American horror mixing home invasion, apocalypse, and sci-fi conspiracy themes. Prolonged stretches of sinister tension, relatable humor, and harrowing performances mostly sell this baffling, layered love letter to horror fans.

Don’t expect Get Out’s succinct storytelling, political leanings, or intimate setting. The breakneck speed of the plot doesn’t let you contemplate the meanings of seemingly trivial clues Peele tucks into the film. These clues along with encyclopedic knowledge of faith, science, history, and lore may be needed to fully decipher the film (at a later time). Plus, there is an ambitious narrative in the undertow occurring mostly offscreen and on a grand scale. None of the loftier aspirations ruin the fun of the initial screening. As with most dense films, repeated viewings (and DVD commentaries) may further confirm theories and speculations.

It is a notable accomplishment that Peele has brought back a sense of intelligent wonder to the mainstream, wide-release horror film. This is provocative filmmaking and has solidified Peele as a preeminent horror director. Us is terrifying, brazenly unique in the horror landscape, and well worth time for horror fans.







Friday, March 15, 2019

Quick Takes: Await Further Instructions, Beast, Let's Scare Jessica to Death



Await Further Instructions is a mystery, sci-fi/horror, yuletide-set gem with grand ambitions that defies its low production values. It’s a cautionary tale of toxic masculinity, tepid statement about the telly, and goes downright mental into stop-motion practical effects.




Beast takes the beauty to ferociously dark depths in this surprising, enigmatic, & confident debut thriller. It defies genre, keeps you off kilter, & the intoxicating lead actors keep you intrigued to the bitter, haunting end that lingers like a sea mist. (From Stray Bear Films available exclusively on SHUDDER.)



Let’s Scare Jessica to Death offers a glimpse of hippy life in the 70s. Care-free, free love, and accidentally falling victim to dark forces when living off the grid. It happens. And in this film, it happens really slowly and aimlessly. I liked the crazy lead’s internal monologue that tried to convince her how non-crazy people should act.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Halloween Postage Stamps Coming This Year!

Sure, no one mails anything nowadays, but as a person who used pens to write with my hands and then put letters in a magical box, I find the retro charm of stamps delightful. The US Postal Service is issuing the "Spooky Silhouettes" series created by illustrator Tyler Lang (see more of his work at AlwaysWithHonor.com) later this year.

Thanks to Miranda at SpookyLittleHalloween.com for breaking this news to the Twitterverse! A pox on you if you are not following Miranda, the ruling Queen of Halloween. She is everything.




MINUTE MUSINGS 
THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS BLOG!

While perusing the USPS site I saw the following disclaimer:
"The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations."
Wonder where your tax dollars go: of every dollar, 23¢ goes to the military, 29¢ goes to healthcare, 14¢ to federal debt, and billionaires now pay $85 billion dollars less than they used to, and 100 highly profitable corporations pay no taxes at all (as of 2017 data). So many things wrong with our government so make sure to have your voice heard and VOTE!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Department 56 Does Dia de Los Muertos

Department 56 unveiled the line up for this year's Halloween Village offerings. Included in the mix is a new series of Dia de los Muertos-themed buildings and accessories. They are available to pre-order now from Country N More Gifts (my favorite shop to buy village pieces) and are expected to be available later this summer.




Monday, March 4, 2019

Quick Takes: Overload, Anna and the Apocalypse, Hole in the Ground, Slender Man




Hole In The Ground is an artfully shot Irish tale with a dread & tension-filled first half anchored by fine performances. It gives up the ghost early on then gets derailed by plot holes & generic tropes revealing an underdeveloped script. It's a near miss more than a fail.




Overlord is an uncomplicated wartime feature that nosedives into Nazi horror territory. It opens with booming vigor but settles into a dull lull with little character development or storytelling. Then suddenly it reanimates for a fun, gory, action-packed, B-movie finish.




Anna And The Apocalypse pushes genres first gleefully then absurdly like a modern Rocky Horror. The pop songs are catchy, carnage is crunchy, and then there's a breakneck tonal shift. It’s zombie horror after all! An utterly unique pastiche and an instant yuletide classic.



Slender Man was quite a feat: first film to be conceived entirely by web bots, filmed in complete darkness (screw you lightbulb), and shot/edited before a script was written (save the talky-talky for reshoots). What efficiency in ruining a creepy story for a cash grab.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Fangoria's 2019 Chainsaw Awards

FANGORIA, the preeminent horror movie magazine, rose from the dead last year and wasted no time in issuing their 2019 Chainsaw Awards this week. These awards are selected by the people who know horror the best: The Fans. Earlier this year the ballot (below) was distributed via social media channels. Ballots have been counted and here is the official list of winners. Thank you FANGORIA for recognizing the best horror of the year. The Oscars can go sit on a chainsaw.

Best Actress: Toni Collette, Hereditary

Best Actor: Nicolas Cage, Mandy

Best Supporting Actor: Alex Wolff, Hereditary

Best Supporting Actress: Tilda Swinton, Suspiria

Best Director: Ari Aster, Hereditary

Best Screenplay: Ari Aster, Hereditary

Best Foreign Language Movie: Terrified

Best Series: The Haunting of Hill House

Best Score: Johan Johannson, Mandy

Best Make-Up Effects: Mark Coulier, Suspiria

Best Wide Release Movie: Hereditary

Best Limited Release Movie: Mandy

Best Creature Effects: Sierra and Josh Russell, The Ritual

Best Kill: Hereditary

Best Streaming Premiere Movie: Bird Box

Best First Feature: Ghost Stories


Honorable Mentions (non-voting categories) included:
  • Best Actress: Claire Foy (Unsane), Dakota Johnson (Suspiria), Madeline Brewer (Cam), Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz (Revenge)
  • Best Supporting Actor:  Brad Dourif (Wilding)
  • Best Director: Matthew Holness (Possum)
  • Best Screenplay: S. Craig Zahler (Puppet Master: The Little Reich)
  • Best Limited Release Movie: Boarding School

The original ballot sent out via FANGORIA's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram pages.


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Scary Movie & TV Calendar Updated

I've updated The Scary Movies & TV Calendar and Calendar page with a simpler interface to make it easier to read on mobile. If you have any more suggestions, or movies/series to add please tweet me @senorscaryjerry or comment below.



Monday, February 25, 2019

Toni Collette's Hereditary Snub & Horror at the Oscars

The biggest Oscar snub this year was Toni Collette's visceral performance in 2018's Hereditary. Her portrayal of Annie, a cold, distant matriarch of a highly dysfunctional family beset by tragedy was the kind of performance actors might have once in a career. Haven't seen it? Take a look at this pivotal scene (SPOILER ALERT):


Collette without a doubt gave a performance of a lifetime, in a film embraced by critics and the horror community but shockingly snubbed by both the Oscars and even the Golden Globes. It has become A24's highest-grossing film worldwide, making over $79 million (on a $9 million budget).

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who hands out the Oscars has historically held a strong bias against genre films in its prestigious top categories (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director). Only a handful of horror films have ever been nominated for Best Picture, often relegating awards to the technical categories, so at least they have some merit. Take a look at the horror films in Oscar's history:

Best Picture Nominations
The Exorcist (1974)
Jaws (1976)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - WINNER!
The Sixth Sense (2000)
Black Swan (2011)
Get Out (2017)

Best Picture Biggest Snubs
Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Psycho (1960)
The Birds (1963)
The Haunting (1963)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
The Omen (1976)
Alien (1979)
The Shining (1980)
Poltergeist (1982)
Misery (1990)
The Babadook (2014)
The Witch (2016)
Suspiria (2018)
Hereditary (2018)

Horror Oscar Winners
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1932) - Actor in a Leading Role
REBECCA (1940) - Best Picture, Cinematography (considered Suspense/Thriller)*
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943) - Cinematography, Art Direction
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945) - Cinematography
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962) - Costume Design
ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968) - Best Actress in a Supporting Role
ALIEN (1979) - Visual Effects
ALIENS (1986) - Visual Effects, Sound Editing
THE EXORCIST (1973) - Adapted Screenplay, Sound
JAWS (1975) - Sound, Film Editing, Music
THE OMEN (1976) - Music
BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (1992)- Costume Design, Sound Editing, Makeup
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) - Makeup
THE FLY (1986)- Makeup
MISERY (1990) - Actress in a Leading Role
THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) - Best Picture, Director, Actor in a Leading Role, Actress in a Leading Role, Adapted Screenplay
DEATH BECOMES HER (1992) - Visual Effects
THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS (1996) - Sound
BEETLEJUICE (1998) - Makeup
SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999) - Art Direction
PAN'S LABYRINTH (2006) - Cinematography, Art Direction, Makeup
SWEENEY TODD (2007) - Art Direction
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)* - Best Picture, Actor in a Supporting Role, Directing, Adapted Screenplay
BLACK SWAN (2010) - Best Actress in a Leading Role
THE WOLFMAN (2010) - Makeup
THE SHAPE OF WATER (2017) - Best Picture, Directing, Music, Production Design (considered Adventure/Fantasy)*
GET OUT (2017) - Original Screenplay

*Horror-adjacent










Sunday, February 24, 2019

Quick Takes: Braid, Happy Death Day 2U, Horror Noire, The Isle



Braid is a defiant debut from director Mitzi Peirone. As a hyperreality adrenalin experience, structure is not the concern. Visuals, frantic color, and aberrant cinematography tell the uncompromising, female-led #horror of intertwined friendship, insanity, and make believe. Brava!




Happy Death Day 2U is exactly what you need in a sequel. The story is advanced, goes battybananas, stays fun, gets smart, brings back the stellar Jessica Rothe, and gives you more that you expected. Director Christopher Landon @creetureshow knocks it out of the– dimension!





Horror Noire is essential viewing. It’s engrossing, educational, and deeply affecting to see examples of Black representation throughout film history. The significance of horror films from Night of the Living Dead to Get Out has never been more clear – and inspiring!





The Isle looks impressive & drips with a damp, brooding atmosphere. But a listless pace & insistence on characters splitting up betrays a story rooted in eerie Scottish lore/mythology. The further in, the farther the writing strays into lifeless whispers instead of howls.




Saturday, February 16, 2019

10th Anniversary – And There's A Name Game!



It's my 10th Anniversary of writing this blog! It started in 2005 as an email newsletter called Wicked October, then transformed into a seasonal blog in 2007. A couple of years later with the launch of MyScaryHalloween.com in 2009, I rebranded the blog as MyScaryBlog.com. This became a year-round blog that tapped into my passion for horror.

Today, the blog continues to evolve as I dig deeper into film studies, focus even more on horror, and delve into my cultural and personal identity. With this new found voice, I've decided to embrace a new moniker: Señor Scary, and a refreshed blog is now available at SenorsScary.com. This site is still dedicated to the scary things I love: horror, haunts, and Halloween. I hope you will continue to follow me and please connect with me on Twitter or Instagram.

–Dreadfully, Señor Scary (a.k.a. Scarrry Jerry)



Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Horror Queers Sets the Record Straight

The latest podcast from Bloody-Disgusting.com gives a voice to a disenfranchised segment of the horror community: Horror Queers. The Horror Queers podcast based on the column of the same name, looks at one horror movie at a time through a gay lens to suss out the actual, implied, subtly hinted, or unintentional queer moments, and review them in a modern context. Deeps dives into older films (so far from 90s onwards) are discussed for cultural relevancy, enduring appeal, and the people making the films. As a result previously panned movies like Jennifer’s Body or Hostel get fresh-eyed assessments.

Arguably, podcasts are most successful when hosts have engaging on-air personalities. I’ve been (re)watching the selected movies to see the world through the eyes of hosts Joe Lipsett and Trace Thurman. Thurman comes across as that lively and enthusiastic friend that you love to go to the movies with because he will appreciate that one great moment in a terrible film. Lipsett by contrast comes across as more reserved and obligingly snarky, like a certain Dowager Countess of Grantham. He is soft spoken, razor sharp, and reminds me of a friend who never seems quite pleased with anything. Together the dynamic is electric: a Siskel to an Ebert that often see eye-to-eye but love to disagree with cheeky aplomb.

The podcast itself is fun, informative, and lively. Sure a touch long but in fairness, I think most podcasts run too long. I could turn it off, but what if I miss a salient point about Jesse Bradford's himbo in Swimfan? The commentary often makes me question my initial opinions on films which is the mark of effective critique. For example, Hostel has one clearly queer scene but is the relationship of the two main characters really more than it appears? Film media, even horror, is a kind of art. One person's perception is just as valid as another who might see something entirely different. The Horror Queers do their homework and present thoughtful arguments to support their opinions. In the case of Hostel, I wonder if poor editing amplified lingering gazes/touches that could be considered queer. After all, performances are "made" in the editing room.

None of my friends truly love horror movies like I do. Beyond the gore and terror, it’s likely because the horror genre often veers towards misogyny and homophobia (among many other phobias). Horror Queers fills a specific void in the landscape that will hopefully bring together the LGBTQ+ community and allies who love horror, and have those awkward and frank discussions about our beloved genre. I'm very excited to see how this podcast develops, and grateful for a major site like Bloody Disgusting to support such an outing.

Listen to the Horror Queers podcast.

Read the Horror Queers articles.

Sign up to sponsor to the Horror Queers on Patreon.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Quick Takes: The Prodigy, The Golem, Velvet Buzzsaw, Tumbbad


The Prodigy has some clever ideas and soot-dark moments but the mounting dread is muted by a lethargic pace, repetitive narrative & bland characters. Jackson Robert Scott as the evil kid is chilling and anchors the movie but it's not scary or radical enough to stand apart. (In theaters on Feb. 8)






I'm a sucker for period pieces and The Golem smartly updates the figure of Jewish folklore with a well-crafted, sincere & culturally relevant film. There’s surprising emotional resonance even while bodies are being torn apart. That's quite a feat Dread Presents! (Available on VOD)





You may hate art after Velvet Buzzsaw. Jake is hilarious in this odd Final Destination meets Absolutely Fabulous-ish queer horror satire comedy that never tips too pointedly in any one direction. Check your expectations and it'll be a merry momentary diversion. (Stream from Netflix)






Folklore, fantasy and horror collide into a feast for the eyes in the creepy and atmospheric Tumbbad. It's thin on characters and bows a bit in the middle but the epic scale and wildly effective visual effects tell the story without the need for words. This is a very good film. (Stream from Amazon Prime Video)



Monday, February 4, 2019

Scary Movie Calendar 2019

Here’s a handy Scary Movie Calendar for 2019. I'll update it periodically, so if I missed something good, let me know: @scarrryjerry or comment below.

UPDATE: I've added a new page to the blog: SCARY MOVIE CALENDAR. It's my personal database (yes, I'm a geek) with release dates of upcoming horror, thriller, and genre-adjacent scary movies

UPDATE 2: I've had a few questions about my definition of "scary movie." I include horror, thrillers, sci-fi, and other genre-adjacent movies. Why? Many movies now defy specific genre categorization and may appeal to horror genre fans. Scary means things that cause fear, alarm, or unease whether it be from monsters, ghosts, aliens, serial killers, or just weird people doing awful things. Scholars, critics, and purists may rightfully disagree. (Here's a great primer on Film Genres Origins & Types.)



Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Best Scary Movies of 2018

The horror renaissance continues in 2018 with some fantastic films, thanks largely to streaming channels and video on demand (VOD). As theaters are steadily becoming relics of the past (only a handful of films on my list are wide releases), VOD is the way to go. Casualties like Overlord and Suspiria both inexplicably opened after Halloween and died quick deaths. I should also note that some of these movies premiered in 2017 (at film festivals or internationally) but didn't become widely available in the U.S. until 2018.


The BEST of 2018

1. Hereditary - Ari Aster's debut film is a family drama with a sickening, dreadful atmosphere that slowly suffocates viewers in it's crazed third act. This is a horror masterpiece.

2. Suspiria - This reinvents every aspect of the original and adds a hypnotic, unsettling menace and epic grandeur. Tilda Swinton is spectacular, and this art film, though quite long, is beautifully conceived.

3. A Quiet Place is a monster movie with a truly unique concept - make a sound and die. The exquisite production values and stellar cast shows how to make the most of a modest budget.

4. Anna and the Apocalypse pushes genres first gleefully then absurdly like a modern Rocky Horror. The pop songs are catchy, carnage is crunchy, and then there's a breakneck tonal shift. It’s zombie horror after all! An utterly unique pastiche and an instant yuletide classic.

5. Mandy succeeds not as simple revenge story but rather the artful manner in how it was made: dark, stylized, and strangely hypnotic and I hate to admit how much I loved Nicholas Cage's performance.

6. Aterrados (Terrified) is an Argentinian fever dream escalates scene by scenes as a paranormal infestation takes a neighborhood. It's an exhausting, unsettling nightmare that is not soon forgotten.

7. Halloween  is a smart, reliable sequel that surprises and delights fans of Michael Myers, John Carpenter, and Jamie Lee Curtis.

8. Annihilation is a unique vision of nature gone wild with extraordinary and often terrifying visuals. The superb cast led by Natalie Portman adds needed urgency to this ultimate meditation on extinction.

9. The House that Jack Built invites us back into Lars Von Trier demented brain as we get to experience the stuff that serial killers think. It's artful, excessively nauseating, riveting like a car accident, exhaustively plodding, heady, hateful, and features a fantastic epilogue. Like most of his films, it's an exceptional work of art – that I never want to see again.

10. Revenge is ferocious gut punch where a sexy young girl faces off against three lewd middle-aged, men in a remote desert. Leave it to the French to bring such superb, bloody action to the screen.

11. The Endless is a cosmic head trip whose ingenious plot and story aren't mitigated by the stoic performances of it's director/writer/actors. Hopefully bigger budgets will allow these two very creative people to push their unique vision further.

12. Lizzie is an understated and quiet contemplation on female empowerment – and a retelling of the infamous ax murders of the Borden family. Chloe Sevigny's furious rage coupled with Kristen Stewart's weary angst are revelations in this definitive film.

13. The Ritual is a rare good Netflix film that pits the struggle of men's stoic friendships against a really scary monster. It's a male-centric spiritual sequel to The Descent.


Honorable Mentions

These were all considered for my best of list but it was another really good year for horror movies.
Overlord, American Satan, The Clovehitch Killer, Pyewacket, Summer of ’84, Upgrade, Verónica, My Friend Dalmer, Possum, Ghost Stories, The Dark, Winchester (a nostalgic favorite but not a great film), The Cleanse, Little Stranger, Apostle, The Lodgers, and Our House.


In the Queue

So many movies and so little time. In my 2018 queue are WildingWhat Keeps You AliveLes Affames (Ravenous)SliceMary ShelleyMon Mon Monsters, and Thoroughbreds.


Horror Adjacent

Bad Times at the El Royale is a noir crime cult period pulp thriller comedy shot like a horror movie. It's full of tension, surprises, great performances and satisfying ending from the director of Cabin In The Woods.

Sorry to Bother You is an insanely good comedy/social commentary with a freaky twist. It definitely crosses the line into legitimate satire horror and shows you things you can't unsee. 


The Most Disappointing Movies of 2018

I define the "worst movies" as those with good credentials on paper whose production entirely and inexcusably miss the mark. These should have been so much better given the talented people behind them, but something went terribly wrong. Sure, there are much worse movies like the trash that fill the horror categories on Netflix but those were trash to begin with and completed avoided.

The Nun couldn't decide on a tone (adventure-romance-horror?) and is a sinful hot mess.
Insidious: The Last Key puts the amazing Lin Shaye at the center and gives her a bland story.
Pacific Rim: Uprising is a tedious sequel no one wants and doesn't even properly feature kaiju.
The Cloverfield Paradox has some trippy scenes but goes no where slowly - and then there's a monster in the clouds. Ugh, lame.
Down a Dark Hall is a dreadfully boring movie with a dreadfully miscast Uma Thurman.
Marrowbone features great performers with a slow burn setup and senseless final act.
Winchester is a decent movie about a glorious house that should have been so much, much better.
Terrifier has great potential and an evil villain but the amateurish actors and thin story sink it.
Mom and Dad starts out good, even with Nicolas Cage, but then has no third act. What's the point?
Bird Box delivers tense performances and set up but its repetitive and doesn't deliver ANY goods.
Unsane is a super annoying experiment and looks absolutely awful – because it was shot on a phone.
House With a Clock in Its Walls is Eli Roth's stumble into kid fare that's neither scary nor fun.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Best Scary TV Shows of 2018

The cold, dark days of January finally give me time to catch up on scary tv and movies. We don't get snow here but lots of overcast skies and rainy, foggy days so the atmosphere is set for some awesome marathons. Here's a list of my favorite 2018 tv shows (my movie list is coming soon!).

The Best Scary TV Shows of 2018
  1. The Haunting of Hill House is fine horror literature with a brilliant story, direction, and acting.
  2. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina is wickedly good fun and one of Netflix's all-time best series.
  3. The Terror is heady horror for adults with a top notch cast and production. Who doesn't like a good naval yarn?
  4. Ash Vs. Evil Dead ended its short, glorious run with a bloody hilarious season. Goodbye Ash–forever and ever!
  5. Preacher added Betty Buckley as a swamp witch – and God as a dog! – and cast a fantastic, fun spell.
  6. Castle Rock is a slow burn that doesn't quite catch fire but is rich with characters and story.
  7. Eli Roth's History of Horror was like a great conversation about the horror genre with friends. 
  8. Sharp Objects is horror-tinted drama with a creepy mystery about grisly murders and possible serial killer in a small southern town. The performances are stellar and the final scene is mind-blowing.

Honorable Mentions

Outcast finally showed up for a final bow at Starz and another good show bites the dust.
Stan Against Evil continued its amusing snark and deadpan indie humor.
The Purge was tamed for TV but also exists as a different, slowburn extended feature.
Channel Zero: The Dream Door is imaginative and often horrific but loses momentum after an early reveal and too much anti-climatic personal drama.



The Disappointments of 2018
    T
  1. The X-Files is really not written well and failed to prove why it needed to return other than fan love for the characters, conspiracy, and aliens.
  2. Westworld became an incomprehensible mess with many unnecessary tangents. It demands too much from an audience and feels like the second coming of J.J. Abrams other misguided effort, LOST.
  3. Midnight, Texas continued its odd, dim-witted and befuddled march to extinction. 
  4. Lore retooled the formula adding great production values but removing its beloved narrator. Bad move Amazon.
  5. Charmed couldn't be less appealing with the dull writing and chemistry-free cast.
  6. American Horror Story: Apocalypse is the usual ridiculous hodge-podge and yet another missed opportunity. This could be edited down to a much more successful 6-episode mini-season called Coven Returns